A New Tool for Population Health
We live at a time that is completely unprecedented in all of human history: data available at the touch of a button, communicative processes that happen in a matter of moments, medical procedures and remedies to handle many of life’s wicked twists and turns, and a plethora of other things that make life easier or better. With various devices and data at our fingertips, the realization of personal exposure has become an ever-growing issue. How many places or companies have fundamental information about us in their records? Whether this is from the purchase of a home or vehicle, or maybe from the established medical history at a doctor’s office, we could be susceptible to data mismanagement.
Data governance is defined as the process of managing not only the security but also the quality, usability, consistency and availability of information. There is no doubt that privacy and security of an individual’s records is of the utmost importance, but have you ever thought about the significance of how your data could be used to make your life easier? When an establishment is able to use your information to process payments more efficiently or let you know when it is time to make an appointment, everyone could be a beneficiary.
Looking at the big picture a little more particularly, every day, it is estimated that we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data. One sector that holds vast amounts of data which needs extensive governance is in the healthcare industry. I’m sure that we have all been through similar sequence of appointments and referrals, such as: family doctor, x-ray technician, specialist to read x-ray, specialist for specific care, and follow up with family doctor. With each visit, there are new forms to fill out, but basically the same questions asked and answered. All of our information is entered into different databases and only accessible at the individual locations. If medical data is forwarded to another doctor or specialist, it must be entered into the new recipient’s database.
The sheer amount of data that is duplicated is part of what adds up to so many bytes of data being created each day. However, if these databases weren’t separated, there would be a greater level of efficiency and less incidence of error. One area of caution that should immediately come to most people’s minds is that of privacy. If information is so readily available to all doctors, specialists and healthcare professionals, how can there be true governance?
Data governance is tightly associated with the strategy that the appropriate data be accessible by the appropriate people. In an efficient association of healthcare experts, a patient’s fundamental information would be entered at one location only. A data file would be created, yet available for the x-ray technician to load images into, and then reachable for the specialist to enter care and prognoses. Because the principal facts have not been recorded by different individuals, there is less likelihood of errors. There are also less chances that subsequent additions to the file will be misfiled, misplaced or altogether lost.
It is understood that an x-ray technician doesn’t need to know the prescriptions that are listed in the medical file, so this information would not be accessible to that party. Thus, privacy is protected and efficiency is still being practiced. This is just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak, of data governance as a means of assurance and improvement in the healthcare sector.
Without overlooking a major aspect of this discussion, there is importance that must be understood when it comes to ownership and consequently stewardship of all the collected data. Protection of medical reports is not only essential between different departments and specialists, but also from outside invaders. Training, monitoring and security hierarchy must be common focus areas to maintain the upmost isolation within and without the system.
To merely say that there is an overwhelming desire to have open access between health professionals to a person’s medical information should not be the only focal point. Efficiency, privacy and protection must accompany data governance throughout the life cycle of any system of storage and access. There is an evolution that is happening with data, and in this evolution, there are new definitions that have to be made, new protocol to establish, and growing pains that will felt, but with careful planning, the possibility of seamless communication and more cost-effective production and services.